The future of regional news on ITV is in doubt, media watchdog Ofcom has said.
Regional services cost the commercial broadcaster around £100 million a year but generate little in the way of advertising revenue.
Ofcom is committed to holding ITV licensees to their regional news obligations for until at least 2014.
But in its report on the future of TV news, Ofcom said that in the future: “Economic circumstances make it much less likely that commercial broadcasters would choose to carry news for the UK nations and regions at anything like its current level, in the absence of effective regulatory intervention.”
It said that “new forms of regulatory intervention are likely to be needed to ensure its long-term presence, because of the disproportionate cost of producing simultaneous programmes in all regions of the network”.
And it called for “more imaginative approaches” if regional news is to continue into the next decade.
Suggestions include giving greater priority to news in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland rather than the English regions – and for devolved governments to have a role in funding it.
Another possibility would be to award the existing regional licences “to other organisations with more regionally-based business models”.
Viewers attach high importance to news from their local area, particularly those in Scotland and Northern Ireland, Ofcom’s research found.
Overall, 29% of viewers said they wanted to see more regional news on TV, while only 3% said they wanted less.